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B4RN to Break Even with its 1Gbps FTTH Broadband in Lancashire UK

Friday, Nov 22nd, 2013 (7:06 am) - Score 1,809
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The not for profit B4RN (Broadband 4 Rural North) network, which is rolling out a “hyperfast” 1000Mbps capable and community-built Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) broadband service in rural Lancashire (England), has nearly connected 350 properties to its platform and that’s roughly the point at which they expect to break-even.

ISPreview.co.uk understands that B4RN, which recently reached the village of Wray (this is expected to be a “big customer base” for their service because it’s home to around 500-600 people), has now dug a total of 160km of fibre optic cable ducts and connected almost 350 premises (up from 170 in July 2013).

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Apparently over 100 local land owners have given the network access and uptake remains considerably higher than the national average. The project told ISPreview.co.uk that a “conservative figure across the patch” would be around 65% with some areas over 90%.

The success is at least partly down to the fact that local people help to build the network in return for shares and that fosters both interest and trust. But of course having a 1Gbps line helps too, especially if you struggled to get a reliable connection before.

In terms of funding, B4RN informed ISPreview.co.uk that they’ve so far managed to raise around £600,000 from shares, plus another £250,000 due to people who have dug but not yet claimed their shares (this is rising all the time as more people get involved at different stages).

At present B4RN’s focus is still on building out their core network between Quernmore and Arkholme in the Lower Lune Valley area (around 8 parishes and 1,400 premises). But progress after this stage could be slower due to the Government’s £20m Rural Community Broadband Fund (RCBF) scheme being stuck in a state of seemingly perpetual paralysis (here).

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The project had been hoping to secure a grant of £875k from the RCBF, which could have been used to help reach 21 parishes “on the edges of our network” (3,200 premises). However, like many other altnet schemes, they’ve been left in the lurch by the Government’s failure to resolve the issue of BDUK funded superfast broadband coverage.

A bank loan of £500k, which could also be used to help improve their coverage, is still on the table but it might come attached to a 10 year payback and could force them to adopt a more “commercial approach” (i.e. cherry picking the most economically viable clusters before later coming back to the remotest parts). Still we understand that discussion over the loan is moving in a positive direction.

Despite all of these problems B4RN has persevered with a difficult build, through rain, mud, wind and snow (plus the odd fibre eating rodent), to deliver broadband into many isolated areas where until recently the very concept of “fast Internet access” remained a laughable joke told over countless afternoon teas and cake. Well we assume there’s cake, there had better be cake, but we’d settle for scones.

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Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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